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“We shall be all body and ignore our souls”: The Pleasure and Pain of the Human Plant in Eighteenth-century Europe
March 5, 2012 @ 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
History of Science, UW-Madison
William Coleman Dissertation Fellow (2011-2012)
Eighteenth-century materialism is often characterized by the analogy between man and machine, a productive image proposed by Julien Offray de La Mettrie in L’homme machine (1747). While La Mettrie continues to refer to man as a machine in subsequent publications, he follows L’homme machine with L’homme plante (1748), introducing the figure of the human plant as another argument for embodied experience. This paper explores the parameters of the human-plant analogy in La Mettrie’s moral philosophy and connects it to broader discourses of plant and human bodies in art, literature, and science. If, as he argues in his Anti-Seneca (1748), “we shall be all body,” precisely what kind of body did he imagine?
Lynnette Regouby, William R. Coleman Fellow, is a Ph.D. Candidate in History of Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research investigates how scientific, literary and visual representations of plant and human bodies inform eighteenth-century concepts of the body and the influence of climate upon them. Ms. Regouby completed a minor in History at UW-Madison, received her M.A. in History of Science from the University of Oklahoma and obtained a dual degree from the same institution in Letters and French Language and Literature.